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A Journal on Forensic Medicine

Frequency: Quarterly

ISSN 0026-4849

Online ISSN 1827-1677


Minerva Medicolegale 2011 March;131(1):1-6


Detection of ketamine and norketamine in human serum and urine: relevance of GC-MS analysis for clinical and forensic purposes

Bertocco C., Brunaldi V., Righini F., Talarico A., Barbieri S., Gaudio R. M., Avato F. M.

Department of Biomedical Sciences and Advanced Therapies, Forensic Medicine Section, Laboratory of Forensic Toxicology, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

Aim. Ketamine, an anesthetic for human and veterinary use, has emerged as a drug of abuse over the past decade thanks to its powerful psychedelic type effects. In this study we developed a method for the determination of ketamine and its metabolite norketamine in biological matrices. The analysis was applied to real samples of serum and urine of anonymous patients aged between 15 and 30 years, admitted to the emergency department of an Italian University Hospital with symptoms attributable to xenobiotics assumption.
Methods. We developed a method of solid phase extraction from biological matrices, derivatization with heptafluorobutyric anhydride and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis with the internal standard method.
Results. According to the results positive urine samples were 19.4%; an incidence of 9.72% positive serum samples attributable uniquely to the active metabolite norketamine and of 4.16% positive serum samples for the parent compound were also detected.
Conclusion. The results show the widespread diffusion of this addictive substance among the youths. It had not been previously highlighted because of the absence of specific targeting supported by toxicological investigations for the determination of ketamine and active metabolite norketamine in blood.

language: English


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